ENNIS, Texas --
The Top Fuel racer joined surprise Funny Car leader Tim Wilkerson, Pro Stock stalwart Greg Anderson, and Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Andrew Hines on the provisional low qualifier's podium.
Currently 77 points behind the fourth and final spot in the Countdown to Four, Todd has two races to make up the deficit. He's off to a good start with a quick 4.541 seconds at 318.47 mph in his Skull Gear dragster.
"Last week we missed a perfect opportunity to make up some ground on the guys in front of us but, it is what it is, and now we've got our work cut out for us this weekend," Todd said. "Hopefully now can go some rounds, pick up some points, and go into Richmond and get in that top four. This is a good morale booster for us because we've all been down in the dumps. Right now everyone is pumped up."
Points leader Tony Schumacher had to surrender his second pass after smoking his tires a few hundred feet into the run. His earlier pass of 4.608 at 322.19 mph left his U.S. Army dragster 13th on the ladder. Countdown participant Doug Herbert is not qualified with two rounds on time trials remaining.
"We really feel like we have nothing to lose," Wilkerson said. "We're not in the Countdown or chasing points. But we do need to qualify because that money is important. That's what helps pay the guys. They're back in the pits doing handstands right now. I feel more for them than I do for me. I got the best job in the world."
Countdown participant Mike Ashley is 10th with a 4.868 in his Torco Dodge Charger R/T. The devout Jew will not race Saturday in observance of Yom Kipper, so he'll have to hope his qualifying time holds.
Points leader Robert Hight will have a sleepless night as his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang has yet to crack the top 16.
"Dave definitely isn't going away and I don't expect him too," Anderson said. "He's running strong and basically mistake-free and that's what we're gonna have to do. And let's not forget about some of these other cats. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see some of these other teams step up in the next few weeks. We're gonna have to be perfect for the rest of the year or we're not gonna win this thing."
Surprisingly, Jason Line is all the way down on the bump with a 6.729 at 206.29 mph in his summit Pontiac. Line had to abort his first round when his car got lose halfway down the track. Fellow Countdown racer Jeg Coughlin failed to qualify Friday.
"This is the time of the year when we usually do well, at least that's been our track record," Hines said. "The team's done a great job and stuck with it through the highs and the lows. I'm really proud of them. To be No. 1 at a track I've never run at is special. My brother [Matt] is defending champion of this race and he showed me the fast way down the strip."
Chip Ellis, who is grasping to the fourth and final spot in the Countdown to Four, has out-qualified his closest pursuers with a second-best 7.017 seconds at 190.75 mph, a track speed record. Ellis' effort is noteworthy because he entered the race exactly 40 points ahead of Angelle Sampey. By out-qualifying her, it will force Sampey to go at least three rounds further than him on Sunday. Sampey is sixth with a 7.075 seconds at 189.02 mph.
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